Clampdown on overcharging eateries

After complaints about inflated bills for meals in Hua Hin, the Commerce Ministry has tasked authorities to tighten inspections at food outlets in tourist destinations and beaches nationwide to see whether food bills comply with actual costs.

"The Commerce Ministry's officials in the province, particularly in the Internal Trade Department and the Provincial Commerce Office, are now inspecting food bills at tourist and beach areas," said Santichai Santawanpas, deputy director-general of the Internal Trade Department.

"But in practice provincial governors are eligible to declare an appropriate reference price at each location and a proper profit structure for food sellers not exceeding 30%."

Mr Santichai said the food bills should be based on raw material costs, rent and other relevant costs. Prices should not differ greatly from other outlets at the same location.

"Previously the ministry considered putting restaurant bills on the price control list under the Price of Goods and Services Act, but this idea was scrapped because Thailand has plenty of restaurants and intense competition, keeping food prices fair," said Mr Santichai.

He said any food traders found selling goods or services at prices higher than the reference prices will be subject to seven years' imprisonment or a fine of up to 140,000 baht, or both. If a vendor is found guilty of swindling a consumer, the penalty is three years' jail or a 6,000 baht fine, or both.

Mr Santichai also encouraged consumers to use social media to spread the message about outlets that sell at inflated prices.

Provincial authorities also started a campaign yesterday to clean up a long stretch of Hua Hin beach and reclaim public space occupied by illegal vendors. The campaign follows a similar drive on Phuket and is part of the military regime's efforts to stamp out encroachment on beaches and in forest reserves.

Prachuap Khiri Khan governor Veera Sriwattanatrakul chaired a meeting of officials yesterday to map out plans to reorganise the beach. He said the next step is to regulate food prices on the beach following complaints about some vendors overcharging customers.

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